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What is an antique firearm? How are they handled differently than other firearms? What if antique firearm uses contemporary ammunition? We discuss here.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulates what is an antique firearm and their definition is as follows; the term “Antique Firearm” means:

    A. Any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; and
    B. Any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade; and
    C. Any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term antique firearm shall not include any weapon which includes a firearm frame or receiver, any firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or any muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock or any combination thereof.


What this means in summary is that any firearm manufactured prior to 1899 (1898 or before) or any replica of such which doesn’t use (and can’t be readily converted) to use contemporary easily-available ammunition is not regulated by the ATF so these firearms do not require background checks and can be sold across state lines basically with no restrictions.

We noted this exemption briefly in regard to firearm laws in our well-known treatise in 2010 on firearms at auction: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/a-guide-for-auctioneers-selling-guns/ An update to this earlier article answered some common questions: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/15-things-about-auctioneers-and-guns/

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Texas Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.